In some instances, your optician might suggest you have a dilated eye exam in order to take a closer look at your eyes. We understand that this can sound a little daunting, so we have answered some commonly-asked FAQs below to help put your mind at ease.

What is a dilated eye exam?

Dilated eye exams are performed using special eye drops to stop your pupils becoming smaller when lights are shone into your eyes.

An optician sometimes needs your pupils to be dilated so that they can get a good look inside your eyes. If your pupils are undilated, a smaller portion of the back of the eye can be seen though for many examinations this is still adequate. However when your pupils are dilated, the optician can see more of the retina, making it easier to diagnose eye conditions such as retinal detachments and cataracts

Why do I need to get my pupils dilated?

Not everyone needs to have their pupils dilated during an eye test. However, your optician might suggest performing a dilated eye exam if you’re experiencing vision problems, particularly if associated with symptoms like flashes or floaters. This is because, following pupil dilation, your optician will have a clearer view of the retina than they would during a normal eye exam, helping them to more easily spot problems like a torn or detached retina which could be causing these symptoms. Alternatively, your optician might suggest pupil dilation simply if you have smaller pupils, making it more  difficult for them to examine your retinas thoroughly. 

What happens in a dilated eye exam?

During a dilated eye exam, your optician will use eye drops to widen (dilate) your pupils. This makes it easier to see the back of the eye. The eye drops take about 25 minutes to fully dilate the pupils, so your optician will ask you to wait while they take effect. Your optician will then perform a number of tests to determine the health of your eyes, including taking a closer look at your retina.  

Are there any risks with pupil dilation?

While there are many benefits to having a dilated eye exam, it’s also important to be aware of the risks. Short term, you may experience side-effects such as blurry vision, although this should subside once the effect of the drop has worn-off.There is a very small risk (about 1 in 40,000) that dilating eye drops can cause the pressure within your eye to rapidly increase, leading to redness and discomfort. Your optician will discuss  this risk with you during the appointment, and discuss what you need to do should you have any concerns following dilation.

How long does pupil dilation last after an eye exam?

Everybody’s eyes will react a little differently to dilation drops. Pupil dilation will typically last up to 8 hours after dilating eye drops are administered, however some effects such as blurry vision may remain for up to 24 hours. 

Do pupil dilating eye drops hurt?

Most people will experience some mild stinging or discomfort when the dilating eye drops are first administered, however this is common and should subside within a few seconds. If you do experience any prolonged pain or discomfort, you should notify your optician.  

Can you drive with your pupils dilated?

It’s recommended that you do not drive after your dilated eye exam until the effects of the drops have completely worn-off.  This is because your pupils can’t control the amount of light going into your eyes, making it difficult or even dangerous to focus on the road when faced with factors such as sunlight and glare. For this reason, your optician will ask that you do not drive to or from your scheduled dilated eye exam.

Noticed a change in your vision?

You can learn more about the Specsavers eye tests procedure on our eye test hub. If you’ve noticed any changes in your vision, simply book an appointment with one of our opticians.

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